Burner Plan

Withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq

The withdrawal of American military forces from Iraq has been a contentious issue within the United States since the beginning of the Iraq War. As the war has progressed from its initial invasion phase to a five year occupation, U.S. public opinion has turned in favor of troop withdrawal. As of May 2007, 55 percent of Americans believe that the Iraq war was a mistake, and 51 percent of registered voters favor troop withdrawal. In late April 2007, the U.S. Congress passed a supplementary spending bill for Iraq that sets a deadline for troop withdrawal, but President Bush vetoed this bill soon afterwards. In the wake of the veto, proponents of withdrawal appear to be shifting towards establishing benchmarks that the Iraqi government will need to meet, a plan that may be more palatable to President Bush and his advisers. Journalist Pepe Escobar points to the destiny of the Iraq oil law as the crucial point determining the will of the American administrations to withdraw.


Immediately before and after the 2003 invasion, most polls within the United States showed a substantial majority supporting war, though since December 2004 polls have consistently shown that a majority now thinks the invasion was a mistake. In the spring of 2007, surveys generally show a majority in favor of setting a timetable for withdrawal. However, in this area responses can vary widely with the exact wording of the question. Surveys find that most favor a gradual withdrawal over time to an immediate pullout.

2004 Presidential election

The issue was one on which John Kerry and George W. Bush differed in the 2004 U.S. presidential election. Kerry said in August 2004 that he would make the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq a goal of his first presidential term. However, he did not offer a deadline or a timetable, and proposed an increase in deployment size in the immediate future. In the debate, he said that he reiterated that withdrawal was a goal, if an initial troop increase works.

In the debate, Bush did not offer any timetable or estimate of troops, either increasing or decreasing, but said only that the commanders of the troops in Iraq had the ability to ask for whatever force they needed. In general, this is consistent with his earlier remarks. When questioned about troop strength, Bush and then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that they were using the troops asked for by the general staff.

Congressional proposals and acts

On November 17, 2005, Representative John Murtha introduced H.J.RES.73 to the House 109th Congress: a resolution calling for U.S. forces in Iraq to be "redeployed at the earliest practicable date" to stand as a quick-reaction force in U.S. bases in neighboring countries such as Kuwait. In response, Republicans proposed a resolution that "the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately," without any provision for redeployment, which was voted down 403-3.

On June 16, 2006, the House voted 256-153 in a non-binding resolution against establishing a deadline for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Republican then-House Majority Leader John Boehner, who argued against a deadline, stated "achieving victory is our only option", and "we must not shy away". On the other hand, Democratic then-House Minority Leader and current Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi argued that a deadline is necessary, and stated "'stay the course' is not a strategy, it's a slogan", and "it's time to face the facts.

On March 27, 2007, Congress passed H.R. 1591, which called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq by March 2008. However, President Bush vetoed the bill and the House of Representatives failed to override the veto. Congress then passed H.R. 2206, which provided funding for the Iraq War through September 30, 2007 and was signed into law by President Bush on May 25, 2007. H.R. 2206 included eighteen benchmarks for the Iraqi government to meet.

On May 9, 2007, Representative James McGovern introduced H.R. 2237 to the House: "To provide for the redeployment of United States Armed Forces and defense contractors from Iraq." The bill failed with a vote of 255 to 171, thirteen of the Nays coming from Democrats representing districts won by John Kerry in 2004.

On July 12, 2007 the House passed H.R. 2956 by a vote of 223 to 201, for redeployment (or withdrawal) of U.S. armed forces out of Iraq. The resolution requires most troops to withdraw from Iraq by April 1, 2008.

On July 18, 2007, after an all-night debate, the Senate blocked the passage of a bill that would have set a troop withdrawal timetable with a vote of 52-47. The withdrawal would have started within 120 days, and would have required that all troops (except an unspecified number could be left behind to conduct a very narrow set of missions) be out of the country by April 30, 2008.

See also Iraq War De-Escalation Act of 2007

McGovern-Polk proposal

Former U.S. Senator George McGovern and William R. Polk, director of the University of Chicago Center for Middle Eastern Studies, published a detailed proposal for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in their book, Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now. (Simon & Schuster, 2006. ISBN 1-4165-3456-3) A sizable excerpt was published in the October 2006 edition of Harper's magazine. Although their deadline for withdrawal has passed, their plan may serve as a useful blueprint for future withdrawal plans. Some of the basic features of their proposal include:

  • The first soldiers to be sent home should be private security contractors.
  • An international stabilization force of 15,000 soldiers to be established. Troops will be drawn from Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt, funded by the U.S. This force would remain for two years after the departure of U.S. troops.
  • Transport, communications, and light arms equipment currently used by U.S. forces should be donated to the new multinational force.
  • In place of a new Iraqi army, a national reconstruction corps should be established, modeled on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
  • The immediate cessation of work on U.S. military bases.
  • U.S. withdrawal from the Green Zone.
  • Release of all prisoners of war.

ANSWER, NION, UFPJ positions

The three largest coalitions which organized demonstrations against the invasion of Iraq in 2003, United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER), and Not in Our Name (NION), have all called for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops, "out now." The anti-war movement has debated whether to support existing proposals in Congress.

The UFPJ legislative working group has endorsed Murtha's redeployment proposal "because it is a powerful vehicle to begin the debate on the war," though the organization as a whole has not taken a position. ANSWER, on the other hand, has stated that "Murtha has not adopted an antiwar position. He wants to redeploy militarily to strengthen the hand of U.S. imperialism in the Middle East.

Burner Plan

The Burner Plan, formally entitled A Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq, is a 36-page policy paper presented by Darcy Burner and other 2008 Democratic congressional candidates, in cooperation with some retired national security officials. The plan outlines policy measures the candidates have pledged to support in the coming election.


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